Why Must the Chicago Reader Embarrass Itself Every Year

Here we go again. The Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago” list is out. The normally well-respected publication somehow finds the gall to release the results of a click-bait popularity poll every year touting the best of everything in Chicago, including “Best Tiki Bar,” “Best Food Delivery Service,” and a dozen or so performing arts categories. You can see the appeal – first the Reader gets clicks for asking for nominees. Then the voting takes place, where businesses all over the city troll their social media followers for a vote (another click on the site), and then the results get shared, resulting in thousands more clicks. places all over Chicago proudly display signs saying things like “The Chicago Reader’s Best Bike Rack of 2011.”

But jeez…couldn’t they try a little harder for at least some level of integrity? This year, one company was nominated for both “Best Established Theater Company” AND “Best New Theater Company.” It also happens to be the company that won “Best New Theater Company” last year. A show I have never heard of that ran for 9 performances (and I mean it no disrespect, I’m sure it’s great) won “Best New Play,” AND was the runner-up for “Best New Musical.”  Sadly it lost to HAMILTON in the latter category.

Last year, Lake Forest Theater, who had yet to produce a show and has already ceased operations, took the prize for “Best Off-Loop Theater,” narrowly edging out Steppenwolf. I suppose Lake Forest, is, in fact, not in the Chicago loop.

I really don’t have a point to make here, other than to sit in amazement over how this charade continues year after year, and how we, the theater industry, indulge it. Perhaps if the reader just assigned an intern or something to make sure that businesses weren’t nominated in conflicting categories…

About author

Jason Epperson

Jason is a producer, manager, and designer with 17 years of experience in Chicago, New York, and in the touring market. In 2015, he founded Lotus Theatricals - the publisher of Performink, and an independent commercial producing company - with Abigail Trabue.